Urgent Needs for the Vikings Defense in 2024

What Would Happen
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

We delved into the urgent needs for the Vikings offense heading into the 2024 season. Now it’s time to focus on the other side of the ball and look at the defense.

Urgent Needs for the Vikings Defense in 2024

Brian Flores has performed wonders, transforming the Vikings’ defense into one to be feared this season. The most important job for Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during the offseason will be retaining his services. If the Vikings’ general manager can do that, then the defense will be in good shape again next season, regardless.

Will teams come courting Flores for a head coach job? The Vikings will have to wait and hope. There are also some big pending free agents and some obvious areas the defense can improve on from this season.

EDGE

Danielle Hunter is having a season that has put him in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. Hunter leads the league in both sacks and tackles for loss but is heading to free agency with a $14.9 million dead cap hit in 2024. To make matters worse, Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum are also pending free agents. Hunter will be expensive to retain, but the Vikings must find a way. Replacing him won’t be any cheaper than paying him.

for the Vikings Defense
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Wonnum is a good depth player, but plenty of opportunity due to Davenport’s injuries could see him play himself to a contract the Vikings don’t want to pay. The price has to be right for Wonnum to come back. As for Davenport, as good as he was on the field, that has been so little he isn’t worth spending any significant money on. The Vikings should look to the draft to reinforce their EDGE department. If Hunter does come back, paying considerable money to another edge rusher won’t be feasible, and the Vikings need more than just Hunter.

Cornerback

The Vikings have a good group of cornerbacks, but unless someone takes a giant leap forward, they don’t have a lockdown CB1. It’s something the Vikings need, especially if Flores remains the defensive coordinator — something that will surely be a source of great anxiety for the fans during the offseason. Cornerback is a difficult role in Flores’ blitz-heavy defense, and a CB who can lock up the opposition’s best WR consistently would make a huge difference.

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Byron Murphy was the notable signing this season, but $8.75 million yearly doesn’t buy you a lockdown corner. The one player scheduled to hit free agency that would fit the bill is Chicago Bears CB Jaylon Johnson. I would expect Chicago to do everything in their power to try and keep him. That leaves the Vikings trying to source a trade or using an early draft pick.

Defensive Line

The defensive line is the weakest part of the Vikings’ defense. Harrison Phillips is a good player, and the players around him are good depth players. Phillips is scheduled to return next year, as is Dean Lowry and rookie Jaquelin Roy. The Vikings lack real dominant forces on the line. If Minnesota could add a big, dominant nose tackle and a dominant interior pass rusher to play alongside Phillips, then the iDL would be suddenly transformed. 

Is finding both in one offseason feasible with so many other areas of the team to address? Possibly not, so the pass-rusher would be a priority for me unless the Vikings can find an absolute stud who can do both. There’s no Jalen Carter in this year’s draft, but some potentially good players will be available in the first few rounds. Alternatively, players like Javin Kinlaw and Teair Tart are set to be free agents.

Linebacker

Jordan Hicks was having a great season before injury struck. He is another pending free agent the Vikings will have to decide over. Undrafted rookie Ivan Pace is having a fairy tale season where he is now the Vikings’ top LB and owner of the green dot — a player who communicates with the coach and relays the play calls. Brian Asamoah’s season has never gotten started, and he has been passed on the depth chart by Troy Dye, who is also set to be an FA.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

Anthony Barr returned to Minnesota to fill in for the injured Hicks, and it remains to be seen if he can make enough of an impact to make the stay more permanent. Whichever way you look at it, the Vikings must add to the linebacker ranks before next season starts. It should be either Hicks’ return or another veteran in his stead — players like Willie Gay, Josey Jewell, and Devin Bush could be available. Then, use a mid-round draft pick on a player to complement the group.


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